Back in the dark ages before WWW and the Internet, my family got the news by reading our local newspapers or listening to the radio. Every family subscribed to a newspaper. Weekly news magazines, like Time and Newsweek, were also popular. We felt we had several good choices for staying informed, but we Boomers were especially ecstatic when black and white televisions arrived in our homes. The news program became an important part of our day.
Watching the 6 o’clock news on CBS with Walter Cronkite became a daily ritual to get the latest in national and world news. He was a serious journalist trusted by the public. He understood that people needed to be informed to be good citizens. Living in Honolulu, we were eager for news of both East and West. Late night news broadcasts were also available at 10 or 11 on the three network channels. Then all programming signed off every night around midnight with an image of the American flag and a soundtrack of the “Star-spangled Banner.”
As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: ‘And that’s the way it is.’ To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.
Today in the 21st Century, with a smart phone and access to the Internet, everyone can tap into as much news as desired anytime of the day or night. Newspapers from all over the globe are available online and news programs can be streamed into a device in your hand. Several television channels are devoted exclusively to news. Online or not, local, national, and international news are available 24/7.
That’s a lot of news. In fact, the news cycle never ends. It’s an endless loop. News geeks, rejoice! This is your time.
But even news junkies need filters and discernment. There’s a lot of noise and filler and infotainment in the mix. Something read online can be fabricated and intentionally distorted; bluster and opinion fill some radio shows. Accuracy and facts, as well as civil discourse, are sadly lacking in some so-called news shows.
I wonder and worry how young people today stay informed, if they are developing a routine for gathering the news and identifying responsible news sources, e.g., Facebook is not a news source.
Two of my friends, a married couple, are former journalists and avowed news junkies. I asked them to describe their daily routine for getting the news. With two computers, they each go online first to various news websites. Deborah goes to CNN first to get an overview of the headlines, then will read more in-depth articles on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post. According to Deborah, the Times is highly respected for its investigative journalism. And of course, the Washington Post broke the story about the Watergate scandal.
The next websites they read are the Wall Street Journal for its financial news and the BBC for its European perspective on American news. Then they turn on the TV to CNN and/or MSNBC; they watch the bottom of the screen closely for breaking news.
All this takes about an hour, then they go on with their day.
At 6 p.m., they watch the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Deborah says, “Rachel focuses on just a few stories that she thinks deserve audience attention.” I’ve been watching her show more regularly over the last few weeks and she is very intelligent. She doesn’t dumb anything down for her viewers. She does her homework by reading various news stories in different publications and is able to connect the dots by reporting the context of each story so the viewer understands or at least can get a sense of why this is important. Her guests include other respected journalists who can further explain or contextualize a news item. I’ve become a fan and I’m not the only one. Maddow’s viewership has increased rapidly since 2014.
In the current issue (Oct. 2017) of Vanity Fair, Editor Graydon Carter says:
In my opinion, she is the quickest mind on television, building cases against the administration so dizzying in their complexity and ultimate clarity that you wish she sent out Cliff’s Note in advance.
Getting the news used to be much more simple. I tried to follow my friends’ daily routine, but sadly failed. (To be continued.)